No Wonder Sir Thomas More Was Beheaded

Someday, and I hope it is soon, someone will give me a legitimate and sufficient reason why, pure sadism aside, college professors routinely insist on assigning to their students the most laborious and unreadable muck. Often these assignments are preceded by something along the lines of, “well, it’s a bit dry and not very engaging, but…” Well, if it’s dry and not very engaging, then why the hell should I subject myself to the task of reading it?

I have, as of five minutes ago, officially given up on reading Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, for which our class was granted a total of two days. I am a fast reader, and I take down Shakespeare like it was the Bobbsey Twins, but I liken the attempt to read More’s tireless manifesto to riding a bicycle through wet cement.

The great irony here, too, is that in another class, Magazine Writing, the text insists that one must be as concise as possible in writing, and avoid unnecessary and arrogant clutter. Yet, in my British Literature class, in which I expect to be reading the “greats,” all I have gotten so far is clutter. Of the 110 pages I’ve read so far (and the book is about 145), I would guess that the whole of More’s statement could be conveyed in no more than 50 pages, and that would be generous. His sentences are so long that before you reach the end of them, your eyes begin to cross and you must return to the beginning to recall what exactly he was talking about to begin with.

I know that as the class progresses, and the timeline moves forward, the reading will get to be less tiresome, but I like to think of myself as a diligent student, and it pains me to cast aside an assignment out of frustration in only my first week of classes. Were this the only time this has happened, I would not be so annoyed–but it has happened multiple times, and I’ve started to notice a trend. While I understand that much of 16th century writing is thus cluttered and long-winded, I’m sure that there could be chosen another example of the time period which would at least engage a reader to the point of completing it. I can only imagine the trouble this awful book has given the other students in the class, mostly sophomores, some of whom undoubtedly read more slowly and retain less than I do. I finished Tristram Shandy (which, for those of you who don’t know, is a 700 page book with neither plot nor point, which moves around at random and has a jillion footnotes) and I think I was the only one in the class who did.

If I can take down Sterne as I did, then my inability to finish this godforsaken piece of (completely irrelevant at this point in time) political rubble should be recognized for what it is: proof that More’s writing is dull, overly puffed-up ego-tripping. So what if it was a stab at Henry VIII? So what if More was beheaded for it? I’d behead him, too–and not for the insult. So what if he was sainted by the Catholic Church? I find myself in direct disagreeance with nearly everything the Catholic Church has to say. His complete madness should be evidenced by the fact that he wore lice-ridden hairshirts and whipped himself, for fuck’s sake. And this is someone whose teachings I’m supposed to be enlightened by? No one who purposely mortifies his own flesh with goat hair should be taken as anything less than a lunatic.

So there. Now you all know what I’ve been doing, and why I’ve been so silent lately. I have gone back into “school mode,” which due to my self-defeating class choices means that I will have very little time to write long-winded, puffed-up diatribes of my own.

~ by saltgirlspeaks on 13 September, 2007.

7 Responses to “No Wonder Sir Thomas More Was Beheaded”

  1. It’s more than a year ago that I moved into this house, and I’ve been doing my best to tidy things up. Boxes everywhere. Paintings everywhere else. I frequently forrage through 2 cu.ft. cardboard strongholds to find the things I really want, and it takes hours. My favorite music sleeps with the compelling films and enters into pacts to evade me. I nearly has a massive attack trying to find my fucking Massive Attack. Anyhow, to my point. I was searching eBay for a CD rack to buy, figuring I could organize everything and save hours. But have you see the stuff out there? The cardboard boxes were beginning to look good again. Anyhow, what the hell… I googled “eclectic cd rack” figuring I could let Dr Octagon sit next to the goth industrial, just above the Rammstein and below the Radiohead (sadly, my cherished EP of the “Polka King” playing 4 remixes of the Polka Macarena was stolen years ago – and what I really wonder is who bought that stolen CD, how much did they pay, and what were they thinking…?)…anyhow, an eclectic rack would be a perfect home for my music collection, right?. Interestingly, the third Google hit I got was your blog! So, ‘fess up, are you secretly selling CD racks out of the back of the pool hall, huh? Anyhow, I wanted to thank you for the blog. It made me laugh, sad, think, and laugh again. I too am unable to read Thomas More – I simply settled for A Man For All Seasons and moved on. As for Tristram Shandy, I went straight for the Michael Winterbottom film (A Cock and Bull Story) which had all the good bits of the novel and weighs 14oz less. But as you can tell, when it comes to English Lit, I’m hardly a purist. I’m sorry your Dad’s sick. Nigel.

  2. That was one hell of a comment.

  3. very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

  4. If you despise reading Utopia so much, drop the class. It’s not worth reading your whines and bitches about reading English that was written in the 16th century. Do you suppose it should have been “translated” into Modern American slang? Get over it or quit reading it. Or get the Cliff Notes. What a fricking baby!

  5. Well, “Prof. Shoshanna,” are you actually a professor, or just a low-grade internet antagonist? I’m sure if you were attempting to show your intellectual superiority over me, you could have called me something more clever and erudite than a “fricking baby.” I would suggest that you follow your own advice, and if you don’t like my blog, don’t read it. It’s not required, and you won’t be graded for it.

  6. Be not dismayed. I was assigned, and did not read, Tristram Shandy in college. It wasn’t until I was forty that I picked it up again. I couldn’t put it down then, and was sad that it ended. (To get an idea of what it is really like, watch the movie “Tristram Shandy,” and you’ll have a similar experience to book.) I was laughing out loud as I read it on the bus going to work.

    To get a feel (very approximate but also accurate) for where Thomas More was coming from, watch “A Man for All Seasons.” He has value modern culture finds difficult to plumb.

    But above all, try Tristram again sometime.

    • I think you read incorrectly Nith– I did finish Tristram Shandy, and I too laughed out loud in certain parts. The whole thing was like one big dirty joke!! I was saying that if I can read Tristram Shandy, which is difficult to get into, then the fact that I hated Utopia and couldn’t finish it was not because of my own inability to grasp difficult literature–it’s cause it was boring 😉

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